The Securities and Exchange Commission issued crypto exchange Coinbase a Wells notice, warning the company that it identified potential violations of U.S. securities law, CNBC reported.
According to CNBC, Coinbase shares fell nearly 12% in extended trading after the news broke on Wednesday, adding to an 8.16% drop during regular trading hours.
“Based on discussions with the Staff, the Company believes these potential enforcement actions would relate to aspects of the Company’s spot market, staking service Coinbase Earn, Coinbase Prime and Coinbase Wallet,” Coinbase said in a regulatory filing. “The potential civil action may seek injunctive relief, disgorgement, and civil penalties.”
CNBC also reported that the SEC has ramped up its enforcement of the crypto industry, bearing down on companies and projects that the regulator alleges were hawking unregistered securities. Reports first surfaced of an SEC probe into Coinbase in mid-2022.
Coinbase posted some information on its website. Here is from the TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) section:
“Today, the SEC gave Coinbase a “Wells notice” regarding an undefined portion of our listed digital assets, our staking service Coinbase Earn, Coinbase Prime, and Coinbase Wallet after a cursory investigation. We are prepared for this disappointing development. We are confident in the legality of our assets and services, and if needed, we welcome a legal process to provide the clarity we have been advocating for and to demonstrate that the SEC simply has not been fair or reasonable when it comes to its engagement on digital assets. Rest assured, Coinbase products and services continue to operate as usual – today’s news does not require any changes to our current products or services.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has told Coinbase Global Inc. that it plans to take enforcement action against the company, escalating its crackdown on digital-currency firms by targeting the biggest U.S. crypto exchange, Coinbase said Wednesday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Coinbase said it received a letter from the SEC known as a Wells notice, in which regulators say they believe companies or individuals violated investor-protection laws. The notices aren’t final because the agency’s commissioners must authorize any lawsuits or enforcement settlements.
By warning Coinbase about a potential lawsuit, The Wall Street Journal reported, the SEC is setting its sights on one of the biggest names in crypto, a publicly traded company that has helped bring tens of millions of customers into the digital-currency markets since it was founded 2012.
A lawsuit would represent SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s biggest step to assert his agency’s jurisdiction over crypto. If Coinbase prevailed in a lawsuit, it would embolden the crypto industry’s claims that Mr. Gensler has overreached and that virtual currencies shouldn’t be subject to U.S. securities laws.
TechCrunch reported that in response to receiving a Wells notice from the FTC, Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong struck a confident posture, tweeting that his company is “right on the law, confident in the facts, and welcome the opportunity for Coinbase (and by extension the broader crypto community) to get before a court.”
In a separate tweet, Armstrong wrote: “Two years ago the SEC reviewed our business in detail and approved Coinbase to go public. Our S1 clearly explained our asset listing process and included 57 references to staking. Coinbase runs a rigorous asset review process and has rejected more than 90% of assets that have applied to be listed on the platform.”
It is unclear to me exactly how this particular situation will end up. I suppose there will eventually be an announcement if something changes.